<b>The Leda Trio: Airs for the Seasons</b>
<b>James Oswald - <i>The Narcissus</i></b>
There are just two movements for the brief dancing life of <b>James Oswald's <i>The Narcissus</i></b>. The first one, is in the style of a Scottish air, but with reflections and echoes added because Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection and was beloved of Echo. This is a perfect example of the native and the classical in each other's arms. The second movement reflects the fact that the Narcissus was a dancer's plant. The medicine from it was good for strained sinews and stiff joints; and the Narcissus bending in the breeze leads the first dance of spring-and is his dance, the second movement, is a Scottish jig full of the cheerfulness of the season. It comes from the first set for Spring.
This is a track from the album <b>The Leda Trio: Airs For The Seasons</b>: Rare, interesting and beautiful music from 18th century Scotland - music that would have been an important part of social life in Edinburgh at that time. <b>David Foulis</b> (1710-1773), an Edinburgh physician who died in obscure poverty, composed six sonatas over a number of years, published in a very scarce edition. <b>James Oswald</b> (1710-1769), in contrast, became an established professional musician and composer to George III, ending his life a wealthy man with many published compositions to his credit.
The album includes three of the <b>Foulis Sonatas</b> - <b>Sonata II in F major, Sonata III in E Major</b> and <b>Sonata V in A Major</b> and a number of pieces from <b>Oswald's <i>Airs for the Seasons</i> - The Lilac, The Nightshade, The Sneezewort</b> and <b>The Narcissus.</b>
<b>DAVID FOULIS</b> (1710-1773) was born into a distinguished family. He became a physician, commencing his studies in 1729 in Edinburgh (where Armstrong was a fellow student) at what was the first Faculty of Medicine in the British Isles, and continuing at Leyden and Rheims. He returned to Edinburgh, passed his examinations to become a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1737, and in 1741 was appointed Physician to George Heriot's Hospital, a charity school. He appears to have lost favour with his family after his marriage, ending his life in impecunious circumstances, depending upon the charity of his fellow professionals and failing to inherit anything of the family's substantial property.
Foulis' six sonatas seem to have been written over a long period and in a different order from that published. They appeared anonymously as Six Solos for the Violin 'Composed by a Gentleman', but more than one copy of the very scarce publication has a contemporary ascription of them to him. The date of publication is thought to be around 1770 and the sonatas are dedicated to Francis Charteris of Amisfield, probably an old family friend, and certainly a fellow member of the Edinburgh Musical Society from 1741 onwards. Although the cover of the publication describes the works as 'Solos', they are individually titled 'Sonata', the Italian rather than English term.
Foulis must have studied music to reach the proficiency that he did as a composer, though all that is known of his music is this publication and a Minuet and March. His writing for violin is excellent and we may guess that he understood and could play the instrument to a high standard. As a member of the Edinburgh Musical Society in the 1740s he was expected to be a performer, and he would have played alongside William McGibbon a fellow member who was probably the most accomplished British violinist of his day.
<b>JAMES OSWALD</b> (1710-1769) started his career as a dancing master in Dunfermline in the early 1730s. He was also a cellist, violinist, music teacher, publisher and composer, active in Edinburgh from 1736, and moving to London in 1741 where he rose to the height of his profession, becoming Chamber Composer to King George III in 1761, and ending his life a wealthy man in his own right as well as spending his last days in the splendid Knebworth House which his second wife had inherited. An early notebook from 1734 shows that he studied and imitated the Italian style of composition, as well as cultivating his own native music.
His works included two satirical Cantatas, Masonic vocal trios published in Edinburgh in 1740, pieces for guitar solo and duet. Besides these, there are Six Pastoral Solos, Twelve Serenatas, Fifty-five Marches, a Sonata on Scots Tunes, and The Caledonian Pocket Companion - a fifteen volume collection of Scots songs and tunes made by Oswald, some of them traditional and others composed by himself and his Airs for the Seasons in two volumes.
<b>Oswald's <i>Airs for the Seasons</i></b> commenced publication in 1755 in parts as Airs for the Spring - and so on for Summer, Autumn and Winter, and they were so successful that he put together a second set intended to follow on from the first, as the page numbers indicate. As each season has twelve 'Airs', bearing the title of a flower, shrub, or tree, this makes the remarkable total of twice forty-eight pieces, representing ninety-six different plants. However, the second set survives in only a single copy (in the Wighton Collection in Dundee City Library).
- Scottish Classical